Here’s a complete guide on how to make coconut milk from fresh coconuts.

Why would you want to do all this work when you can just buy coconut milk at the store? Well, look at the list of ingredients. Very few state 100% milk. The majority of brands have some type of stabilizer and preservative in them. Guar gum is a common one.

I don’t know about you; but I like to steer clear of preservatives when I can. Plus the store-bought milk (and milk made with store-bought shredded coconut or desiccated coconut) doesn’t have the same great, coconuty taste as fresh coconut milk.

Nothing could compete with the real thing.


What You Need to Make Coconut Milk

To make fresh coconut milk, you need:

  • brown coconut(s)
  • hammer or cleaver
  • paring knife
  • blender (or juicer or grater or coconut shredder)
  • cheese cloth (or strainer)

That’s it.


How to Make Coconut Milk: Step by Step

1. Buy good coconuts

You’ll find good brown coconuts at the farmers’ market or specialty grocery store. All you need is one to get started. Of course, you can get more if you want to make large batches (the milk stays well in the freezer).

When buying coconuts, shake them and make sure there is liquid inside. The coconuts are fresher when they have a bit of coconut water still in them. Avoid nuts that look a little moldy or gray; they may be rancid (yuck!).

Coconut, bowl and cleaver

2. Crack ’em!

Use a hammer or the back of a cleaver to strike the coconut (perpendicular to the grain). You will need to use some force here to break the shell so get that aggression out! Ha!

Rotate and repeat your strikes until you see cracks in the shell. Continue until the coconut splits.

Coconut water will flow out of the nut so it is best to open over a bowl or the sink. You can drink the water too.

Cracked coconut

Look at that beautiful white coconut meat.

If the meat has an unpleasant smell or is slimy or runny, get rid of it. That’s a rancid one.

3. Get the coconut meat out

So there are lots of ways to get the coconut meat. I’ll explain what I do first (the hard way) and then show you the easier ways to extract the meat.

I gently tap the back of the coconut shells. If the coconut is dried properly, the meat will pop right out. That didn’t happen for this one… but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Then, I use a sturdy paring knife and stick it between the shell and the meat (the sharp edge is always away from me so I wouldn’t accidently cut myself). You’ll need to keep the shell stable too when doing this. Twist the knife and the meat will pop out. You can also cut the meat with the knife and then try prying it out.

Removing coconut meat with knife
Extracted coconut meat

So that’s the hard way.

For the easier ways, you’ll need some equipment. A manual coconut scraper will remove the meat right out of the shell. No prying necessary. This one is from Amazon. Oh and there are electric ones too on Amazon.

Coconut scraper

This cheap hand tool also seems promising…

Coconut hand tool

If you use these scrapers, you can skip the next step below.

4. Prep the coconut meat (optional)

Personally, I like to remove the brown coconut skin from the meat. It’s just my preference and it maintains that bright white color of the milk.

Peeled coconut meat

Next, I slice the meat into thin slivers to make it easier for my blender.

Coconut slivers

5. Add water and blend*

The blender breaks down the thin slices into tiny bits.

Blended coconut meat

Now, add one cup of water to the meat and blend for a minute. The meat will turn into a thick coconuty paste.

Coconut milk unstrained

So there are a couple notes to add here.

#1: If you used a coconut scraper to remove the coconut meat, you could jump over step #4 to this step.

*#2: A food processor works just as well as a blender here.

*#3: You don’t have to blend the meat if you have a juicer. And you won’t need to add water either. The juicer takes care of everything from extraction to straining and you’ll get the purest coconut milk (with no added water).

#4: If you used a coconut scraper, you don’t need to blend the meat at all. Instead, you can add warm water and squeeze the meat with your hands. This is how to make coconut milk, the traditional way.

6. Strain

Using a cheese cloth or strainer, strain the blended coconut meat for your fresh, absolutely delicious coconut milk.

You can use it right away or pop it in the fridge. It can stay for week in there… Of course, coconut milk never lasts a week in my house… Someone always gets to it!

Coconut milk

7. Repeat

Here’s the thing, the bits that remain after straining can be blended again (and again) with a cup of water. And strained again.

The coconut milk you get after the second and third time will be thinner and less flavorful as the first batch. But, they will still have that nice (but milder) coconut flavor. I found using desiccated or store-bought shredded coconut gives you this milder flavor.


Coconut is Amazing!

After straining the milk, you can use the coconut meat in anything you’re making. I use it in soups, muffins, and so much more.

You can also spread the meat out on a baking sheet and place in the sun for a couple hours. The tropical sun is good for drying the meat and making it into coarse coconut flour. You can do the same in your dehydrator or oven (on low heat).

Coconut flour is a great gluten-free substitute to wheat and grain flour.

The milk can also be used to make pure coconut oil too. But I’ll explain more on that in another post.

Oh and the coconut shells make great bowls for serving food or for decorative elements. That’s the beauty of coconut: everything can be used and nothing is trash.

Did you learn how to make coconut milk here? Do you make it differently? Leave me a comment, I’d love to learn more from you.

Don’t forget to pin this for later too:

How to Make Coconut Milk

Enjoyed this? Then check out my other How To posts: